James DeGale could become the first British super-middleweight boxer to win a world title on foreign shores when he faces Andre Dirrell.
Divisional champions Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn, Joe Calzaghe and Carl Froch all occupy an esteemed list of global successors at 12 stone, but the quartet seldom challenged for the most prestigious straps across the pond.
He’s a top fighter, he’s improved a lot since his defeat to George Groves and he’s world class nowLuke Blackledge
That’s where DeGale’s task differs, facing Dirrell in the USA, even if the native’s base in Michigan, is almost 900 miles inland from the venue at the Agganis Arena in Boston, Massachussetts.
Clitheroe fighter Luke Blackledge (19-2-2), who rejected a proposal from the Olympic bronze medallist last year, is hopeful that DeGale does the business in his scrap for the IBF title.
However, history has forced the Commonwealth champion to deviate towards Dirrell.
“I hope DeGale wins the fight,” he said. “He’s a top fighter, he’s improved a lot since his defeat to George Groves and he’s world class now.”
He added: “In all honesty, though, I can’t see it. Dirrell is too experienced and a different class. I think Dirrell will stop him in the later rounds.
“Part of that is going off his record. Dirrell schooled Froch and he was unlucky not to win that fight. You then look at what Froch did to Groves, twice, and what Groves did to DeGale. It should be a good fight but my money is on Dirrell.”
Blackledge looking to example of the “Real Gone Kid”
Should Andre Dirrell stretch his record to 25 wins from 26 contests at the expense of James DeGale tonight, Luke Blackledge, using fellow super-middleweight Paul Smith as an example, doesn’t see why he can’t step up in due course.
Clitheroe’s 12 stone Commonwealth champion is a place below Smith in the British rankings, but Smith, having lost twice to Arthur Abraham when challenging the Armenian’s WBO world crown, has landed a battle with Andre Ward at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, next month.
“There’s no reason why I couldn’t step up to fight Dirrell,” said Blackledge. “Look at Paul Smith - he lost his Commonwealth title shot but went on to fight for two world titles.”